The first step in influencing the potential of a technology to impact business outcome is identifying the extent to which technology aligns with or supports executive ‘care-abouts’ of the SMB buyers. Technologies that connect directly to C-level objectives are most likely to obtain support. Techaisle survey data shows that digital transformation is very prominent in executive-oriented IT discussions but influencing the SMB & midmarket IT and non-IT buyer is no cakewalk. Consider these statistics from Techaisle surveys:
- 72% of SMB IT purchases are triggered by an acute business pain point & number of pain points are increasing
- 52% of SMBs are facing 5+ business challenges
- SMB IT Purchase Decision Making Unit (DMU) has grown by 250% over the last decade
- Average of 5.2 decision makers are involved in technology purchase decisions in midmarket firms & 2.1 in small businesses
- 43% of IT buyers are millennials
- SMBs have 7 distinct business processes
- Channel partner is involved at only 50% decision making stage
- 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before first meaningful contact with a potential supplier
- 17% of SMBs use six or more information sources
- Average channel partner sales cycle is 7.7 weeks
Where, when and who to influence is a key challenge, especially when digital transformation impacts more than one buyer segment and business process.
More than one-third of Techaisle’s survey (N=1500) respondents indicate that digital transformation supports four critical corporate priorities. Nearly 60% see digital transformation as contributing to operational efficiency – streamlining processes within the business. Over 40% believe that digital transformation contributes to employee empowerment, which is in turn viewed as important to productivity and to attracting and retaining millennial employees. 34% view digital transformation as a key to developing customer intimacy, enhancing relationships with existing and new customers. And a similar proportion connect digital transformation with product innovation, positioning it as a means supporting innovation and improving output quality.
Digital transformation strategy is business outcome driven and connecting and communicating potential outcomes is a challenge for most IT suppliers. Most tend to over-focus on case studies but these are yet few and far between.
Techaisle research findings represent fertile ground for IT marketers. They support messaging aimed at senior executives, which is often a difficult-to-engage target audience for IT suppliers.
Over the past decade, there has been an explosion in the number and types of information sources available to SMB decision makers. It is no longer the case that these decision makers congregate in a handful of trade events, or refer to a limited number of industry publications – and it is also no longer the case that they can be moved predictably through a process that starts with an initial inquiry and progresses through education to qualification and to a sale. Instead, technology buyers are increasingly self-educated:
- they find information on products/solutions online,
- check reviews and comparisons,
- drill into pricing and features
- consult with their peers and “super consultants”
- and then make contact with a supplier – not with an initial inquiry, but with a fully-formed request
This changed behavior has radically altered the approach that IT vendors need to use in marketing digital transformation solutions to new accounts:
- ‘Campaign marketing’ has become a relic of an earlier age, replaced by a content marketing brew combining ‘thought leadership’ (to engage new prospects) and ‘digital discovery’ (to ensure visibility for the thought leadership)
Notion of a marketing funnel has been supplanted by focus on buyer’s journey, sprinkling ‘sticky’ content onto digital pathways traversed by high-priority targets
The resulting diffusion in responsibility/authority and information channels has created an environment where buyers and sellers struggle to develop the cohesion needed to promote or embrace new digital transformation capabilities within existing IT and business process structures. Therefore, ITDMs and BDMs have to be targeted differently:
- Digital transformation technology solutions where IT is the dominant buyer need IT-focused positioning with detailed information on product attributes along with a second layer of collateral containing information on the business case for the solutions, and aimed at BDMs
- Digital transformation technology solutions where BDM is the dominant buyer, vendors need to make a strong case for the business benefits and relevance of the solution and orient these messages towards BDMs, supporting this campaign with accompanying technical information designed to provide clear deployment and integration guidance to ITDMs.
- Digital transformation technology solutions where both ITDM and BDM share ownership, need to be positioned with deep information on business benefits and the process steps required to capture those benefits targeted at BDMs, and deep information on how to assemble, deploy, integrate and support/optimize these solutions targeted at ITDMs.
There is no one single source of information. IT suppliers will need to invest in three different information dissemination vehicles:
- “shallow” (TV and print advertising),
- “moderate” (technology websites, IT magazines, brochures/fact sheets/newsletters, catalogs, search), and
- “deep” (vendor websites, recommendations, personal sales calls, conferences, webinars, case studies, white papers, blogs/forums)
Techaisle findings show that “shallow” vehicles represent about one-third of overall sources used by small businesses, and just less than 25% of those used by midmarket buyers; that “moderate” vehicles capture 41% of total small business attention, and about one-third of midmarket buyer interest; and that “deep” options represent just over 25% of the information mix in small businesses, and 45% in firms with 100-999 employees.
Referenced Techaisle survey research:
- SMB & Midmarket Digital Transformation adoption trends
- SMB & Midmarket IT Maturity segments
- SMB & Midmarket Buyers Journey
- SMB & Midmarket: Decision Making Authority – IT vs. Business
- SMB & Midmarket Unified workspace & Importance and Role of Advisory relationships